A stripling of 53 years of age, guitarist Eliades Ochoa is the youngest member of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. But if anyone, pointing to the wealth of solo albums that have followed in the wake of Wim Wenders’ film, suggests that Ochoa is cashing in, refer them to Tributo al Cuarteto Patria pronto.
Recorded to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Cuarteto Patria, the band which Ochoa has infused with his mellow guajiro (country) sound, Tributo occupies an intriguing position between old and new. Its music is often traditional and versions can be found elsewhere. However, Ochoa’s skill lies in his ability to make a translation into new tone and timbres. So ‘Yiri Yiri Bon’, a dance number that could have been preserved in perfect late-1950s aspic, is opened out to new influences. Ochoa’s son, Eglis, adds a fierce upbeat on percussion while acoustic bass from William Calderón and burning trumpet sounds from Anibal Avila Pacheco add an irrepressible vitality.
As a celebratory album, Tributo has a sense of its own event. And with guest appearances from some of Cuba’s best veterans it has every right to do so. But don’t be totally seduced by Ochoa’s dance tunes: arguably, the best tracks are to be found in the quiet yearning of ‘Que Murmuren’ or ‘Por Culpa de las Mujeres’ – a spirited riposte from an 88-year old El Guayabero to allegations of womanizing. Such warmth and passion is impossible to deny.Louise Gray